When a Wedding Spells Sensory Trouble

Weddings are joyous occasions, right?

My niece is getting married next month, and my husband and I couldn’t be happier for her.

Hubby and I were talking about the upcoming wedding and the things we needed to think about for the date when it hit me like a ton of bricks.

My seven year old was going to have to wear dress-up clothes.

In some families, they may not give having to wear dress-up clothes a second thought.

But in our family, it spells serious sensory trouble.

Be sure to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder and my parenting tips on how to support your child with sensory challenges.

When Dressing Up Means Sensory Trouble For Your Child | Mommy Evolution

Vman has Sensory Processing Disorder and is extremely tactile sensitive.

This means that clothing has always been a particular problem for him.

We try to find the most comfortable clothes (with absolutely no tags, of course) but even some t-shirts can feel horrible for him.

How on earth is he going to manage having to wear something other than athletic shorts and jersey shirts?

I’ve learned over the years the best way to handle a sensory-explosive situation is to discuss it multiple times before it actually happens.

It raises the chances that Vman will be able to talk through his anxiety and discomfort and lowers the chances of a complete meltdown.

One night last week, I mentioned that we had been invited to his cousin’s wedding.

I expected Vman to ask me when the wedding would be or if the rest of the family would be there.

Instead, a concerned look flashed across his face as he slowly asked, “Does this mean I have to wear fancy clothes?” Yep. He knew exactly what it meant.

As I told him it would mean that he would have to dress up, crocodile tears started pouring down his face.

I quickly explained that we would work together to find the most comfortable clothing for him.

But I also explained that it was an evening wedding and wearing shorts just wasn’t an option.

Instead, he would need to wear cotton pants and a button up shirt. (I don’t think a shirt with a tuxedo printed on it will pass the mustard, do you?)

Having sensory kids is a delicate balance.

On one hand, I need to pay attention to and honor the specific sensory needs my kids have.

On the other hand, I also need to teach them how to manage their sensory challenges to fit into real world situations.

And this wedding is going to be one of those times.

I am absolutely dreading taking him clothes shopping.

I know it will be an absolute cry fest on both of our parts. I also know that I will do my best to find a good compromise.

My hope is the day of the wedding he has one final cry out and then manages the clothing for the night.

Otherwise, it could prove for a very “interesting” evening.


Read more about Sensory Processing Disorder on Mommy Evolution!

Learn more about sensory challenges or join our inclusive community on The Sensory Spectrum.


  1. Oh, that balance is SO hard to find – never mind maintain.
    Good luck!!!! Is Vman at all enticed by being “grown up?” That could help a little.
    As a side note, your family should have some level of understanding…right? Ideally speaking. Because, you know, we all have ideal families.
    As a side, side note, most of my partner’s family wore shorts and baseball caps to our wedding. Maybe we could rustle up some of them 😉

    1. Ha! That’s awesome that people wore shorts and baseball caps. I’ll bet they’re all characters.

      The being “grown up” doesn’t work for Vman. He’s almost 8 so that idea has kind of passed. He already feels grown up — and they say this doesn’t happen until they’re tweens! I’m hoping to find some softer khakis and perhaps a soft button up short sleeve shirt…. we’ll just have to see!

      1. My son is nine and he wore what he calls fancy clothes for the holidays last year, first time no tears. He asked if he could wear reg clothes under them. He had a short sleeve shirt he liked and long athlete pants under the fancy pants. He wanted to look good, just didn’t like the way they felt on his skin. We just had to buy the suit a little bigger to fit, bonus as soon as he could he was able to take it off real quick.

  2. Have you considered bamboo? I have a pair of bamboo pants for Nikky and they are the softest thing I have ever felt. They are pricey, but might be worth it for occasions like this. If he were anywhere near the right size, I would totally send these too you. Ph well.

  3. Oh my word… My son is at this very moment, wearing athletic shorts and jersey shirt! That is what he arrived home from school in after dunking his own outfit in the toilet…sigh…

    He is super sensitive, AND has a verified allergy to latex. We even buy him $10 undies made for sensitive kids & latex free, to make sure he doesn’t break out in itchy eczema around his waistline like so many other times. Usually, he roams around in his undies and maybe a blanket…in the winter…maybe. So we are happy when he does wear ANY clothes.

    I have not successfully been able to dress him up, but also haven’t needed to. I’m curious what ideas everyone has! I do have to say though, that your idea of a t-shirt made to look like formal wear is a mighty good one!

    1. Someone suggested we try linen pants and shirt because it’s summer and they’ll feel softer after a wash. Not quite sure where I would go to get those for a kid (and reasonably priced at that).

  4. Love this line- “Having sensory kids is a delicate balance. On one hand, I need to pay attention to and honor the specific sensory needs my kids have. On the other hand, I also need to teach them how to manage their sensory challenges to fit into real world situations.” It’s such a delicate dance- honoring their sensory needs and teaching them how to function in a world that’s not always as accommodating as we would like. Like you, I also find that discussing the event before hand (often multiple times) helps reduce the anxiety. Best of luck to you at the wedding!

  5. Society today is, fortunately, dressing down a bit, and in many situations (I don’t know if your wedding is one), the obligations, especially on children, aren’t so stringent. I have been to a wedding where the groom wore a t-shirt. I have been to funerals where black was not de rigeur, and people wore what fit and looked decent.

    One hopes we can continue this way — I know, we’re not as stylish as people used to be, but perhaps comfort, and a sensitivity to people’s budgets which preclude having the “right” type of clothing, will take a stronger hand. I hope that there is some leeway for you and your Vman in this situation.

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. We’re certainly looking at something along that route. However, I don’t think sweat shorts will fit the bill! I was thinking perhaps a white short sleeve tshirt with a collar (the kind you see at country clubs) would work for him. We’ll see!

  6. I find that giving LOTS of advance notice and a FEW dressing ‘rehearsals’ in a calm environment and time (HIS room, HIS choice of time) WAY ahead of the date has helped me.

    I always regret having not planned ahead for things like this, for things where an explosion might/could have been avoided. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

    1. I would completely agree with this…. well, all except the dress rehearsal. It’s tough enough for one day. The absolute meltdowns if your child doesn’t want to wear it until the actual day isn’t worth it from my point of view.

  7. We’ve just done this. Our 4yo doesn’t dound quite as sensitive as Vman but he is pretty touchy about clothes and spends his life in track pants. But he wore his “wedding uniform” all day last Saturday! I feel like there was lots of luck involved but for what it’s worth, this was our strategy:

    1. We talked about it a LOT. We looked at pictures of other kids dressed for a wedding (for inspiration/to set expectations) and about why you dress up (to show love/respect to the bride and groom on their big day).
    2. He and I had a special day at the shops to buy his wedding clothes – we had hot chocolates and cupcakes “for shopping energy” and when we had found something we were both happy with we went and bought Lego as a reward. It wasn’t cheap, but it was effective
    3. He’s an imaginative kid – the trousers we ended up buying were a sandy colour like Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine costume and he loved imagining that he was Luke Skywalker wearing them.
    4. When we got home, I cut all the labels off and pre washed things to soften them up a bit.
    5. I secretly packed a bag with his nicest familiar clothes so that, if we had to, he could change as soon as we’d taken photos – it was a psychological gift to myself so that, once the wine started flowing and the kids were on the dance floor, he and I could both relax for a bit if we needed to. But we didn’t! He was a champion.

    All power to you, mamma, as you support your little guy through this and face up to everyone else’s expectations. I hope you’re as lucky as we were!

  8. I am going through the exact issue right now as we prepare my 7 year old son for his First Holy Communion. We have tried peaceful discussion, little gifts and fun events as incentive to try on what we’ve purchased on-line. Forget shopping in a store or having anything tailored. We’ve used the iPad to find pictures of boys wearing traditional suits. To alleviate his concerns about being too dressed up, I opted for khaki trousers and a navy sport jacket with slip on, very soft loafers. After a struggle, we managed to get those items on him for less than a minute. Now, The problem seems to lie with the button down shirt. I cannot sub out a white tee (too casual) or turtleneck and he refuses polo shirts. Our church requires a white satin tie, and a white bow pinned to his sleeve. The very idea is torture to him. He refuses a belt. I purchased two neckties, two bow ties and suspenders in fun prints to match his dad, as an alternative, hoping I could swap out the colorful items after church, for his party. We plan on letting him dress down for his party, even designed a communion themed special tee for him. But I feel that he should be properly dressed for church out of respect and also to blend in with his peers. I am most concerned that he will throw a tantrum at home and we won’t make his mass or that he will be disruptive to others taking communion. He is a very good boy but we are struggling with this. I am so upset over his distress and frankly losing patience. I know I cannot be the only parent in my community struggling with this issue, but it feels like it. Well-meaning friends and relatives assume he is “working” us. Any suggestions. I would love to know how you handled the wedding.

    1. We worked hard on having my son understand that the wedding was an important ritual that we needed to respect. But I also talked about the fact that I respected how hard clothing was for him and we worked on a compromise. I would approach your church about the issues as well for other dress options.

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